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Luigi D'Albertis

Luigi D'Albertis

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Luigi Maria D'Albertis was a flamboyant Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 naturalist
Natural history
Natural history is the scientific research of plants or animals, leaning more towards observational rather than experimental methods of study, and encompasses more research published in magazines than in academic journals. Grouped among the natural sciences, natural history is the systematic study...

 and explorer who, in 1876, became the first person to chart the Fly River
Fly River
The Fly at , is the second longest river, after the Sepik, in Papua New Guinea. The Fly is the largest river in Oceania, the largest in the world without a single dam in its catchment, and overall ranks as the twenty-fifth largest river in the world by volume of discharge...

 in Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea , officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, is a country in Oceania, occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and numerous offshore islands...

. He took eight weeks to steam some 580 miles up the Fly River in an Australian launch, the Neva. On board as engineer was young Lawrence Hargrave
Lawrence Hargrave
Lawrence Hargrave was an engineer, explorer, astronomer, inventor and aeronautical pioneer.- Early life :Hargrave was born in Greenwich, England, the second son of John Fletcher Hargrave and was educated at Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Kirkby Lonsdale, Westmorland...

, later to become an aviation pioneer. D'Albertis kept a pet python on board to prevent his motley crew from pilfering the stores. He also fired off exploding rockets to keep any hostile natives at bay. His expedition collected specimens of birds, plants and insects. The Neva forced its way upstream until brought to a halt by the shallows. They then steamed downriver to a tributary called the Alice, and d'Albertis cajoled his crew up this river with promises of gold. Eventually stricken by malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

 and crippled by rheumatism in both legs, he admitted defeat. He tried once again in the following year, but did not reach as far as before, and returned to Europe. An excellent account of d'Albertis' expeditions up the Fly in the Neva and his various political and personal problems with his contemporaries and the inhabitants of Papua are told in Goode, J. 1977 Rape of the Fly (Nelson, Melbourne).

He was born in Genoa
Genoa
Genoa |Ligurian]] Zena ; Latin and, archaically, English Genua) is a city and an important seaport in northern Italy, the capital of the Province of Genoa and of the region of Liguria....

. His cousin, fellow explorer Enrico Alberto d'Albertis
Albertis Castle
The Castello d'Albertis, or D'Albertis Castle, was the home of Captain Enrico Alberto d'Albertis, which was donated to the city of Genoa on his death in 1932...

, housed many of Luigi's specimens at Castello D'Albertis. The castle is now home to the Museum of World Cultures. His natural history specimens from New Guinea are in the Natural History Museum of Giacomo Doria
Natural History Museum of Giacomo Doria
Natural History Museum of Giacomo Doria, in Italian, Museo di storia naturale Giacomo Doria is a natural history museum in Genoa, Italy. It is named for the naturalist Giacomo Doria....

 in Genoa.

Several New Guinea reptiles were named in honour of L. M. d'Albertis: Heteropus Albertisii Peters and Doria, 1878 = Carlia bicarinata (Macleay, 1877) (bicarinate four-fingered skink, a lizard); Gonyocephalus (Lophosteus) albertisii Peters and Doria, 1878 = Hypsilurus papuensis (Macleay, 1877) (Papuan forest dragon, an agamid lizard); Emydura albertisii Boulenger, 1888 = Emydura subglobosa (Krefft, 1876) (red-bellied short-necked turtle, freshwater turtle), and Liasis albertisii Peters and Doria, 1878 = Leiopython albertisii (Peters and Doria, 1878) (white-lipped or d'Albertis python).

Several of these species were described by the German naturalist Wilhelm Peters
Wilhelm Peters
Wilhelm Karl Hartwich Peters was a German naturalist and explorer.He was assistant to Johannes Peter Müller and later curator of the Berlin Zoological Museum. In September 1842 he travelled to Mozambique via Angola. He returned to Berlin with an enormous collection of natural history specimens...

 and Giacomo Doria
Giacomo Doria
Marquis Giacomo Doria was an Italian naturalist and politician.He was the founder of the Museo Civico di Storia Naturale in Genoa in 1867, and director from then until his death...

, the Italian naturalist and founder of the Natural History Museum of Giacomo Doria
Natural History Museum of Giacomo Doria
Natural History Museum of Giacomo Doria, in Italian, Museo di storia naturale Giacomo Doria is a natural history museum in Genoa, Italy. It is named for the naturalist Giacomo Doria....

.

Only Leiopython
Leiopython
Leiopython, formerly a monotypic genus, now comprises six species, created for the non-venomous python species, L. albertisii, found in New Guinea. No subspecies are currently recognized. It was first described as an intermediate genus between Liasis and Nardoa...

 albertisii
(the white-lipped python) is currently recognised as a valid species, the other three reptiles being synonymised within species described earlier, ironically two of which were described by British entomologist William Sharp Macleay
William Sharp MacLeay
William Sharp Macleay was a British civil servant and entomologist.-Early life:Macleay was born in London, eldest son of Alexander Macleay who named him for his then business partner, fellow wine merchant William Sharp. He attended Westminster School and Trinity College, Cambridge graduating with...

 whose rival expedition on the Chevert, was also collecting specimens in southern Papua.

Publications

  • Journies up the Fly River and in other parts of New Guinea. Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society 1879 (read at the Evening Meeting, November 11, 1878):4–16 (incl map).
  • New Guinea: What I Did and What I Saw. Vol. I and II. London: S. Low Marston Searle & Rivington, 1880

External links